Saturday, 30 November 2013

Jackie Josephson Cup: Maccabi vs Team Rowan

This Thursday Team Rowan travelled to Maccabi Club for what I think is the third round of the Jackie Josephson Cup [Edit - name corrected]. I don't know how many rounds there are in total, but we've done well so far. This is a knockout tournament between all the teams in the Glasgow league, with handicaps if teams in different divisions play. Tonight our opponents were Division One, so we started with a vital 1500 point headstart.

Me and Anna took our usual seats on Table 4, against an excellent young Polish pair called Peter and Darius. "My partner is weak in English" said Peter, "so I will explain for both of us.". They were playing a Polish Club system, which has a lot of artificial bids, especially the 1♣ opener. This shows "any 11-14 hand, a medium hand with Clubs, or any 18+ hand".

I've got a bit of experience with Polish Club, as me and Ted used to play it sometimes at Edinburgh University. Together we wrote up the full system notes on a website here. And here's another old article I wrote with all the key bridge terms in Polish (and Greek) - click here.

Anna isn't so familiar with Polish Club, and in the one minute while we shuffled the cards we tried to come up with a bidding defence. I talked very quickly, and Anna had no chance. This could be a long night, against 1st Division opponents playing a funny system.

On the first few hands we actually did OK, and when I made a nice 4♥ I relaxed a bit. Peter and Darius bid a lot of games, maybe thinking they could steal some 3NT contracts, but we defended staunchly. They would sometimes have a rapid fire conversation in Polish between hands, and on more than one occasion declarer showed all his cards to dummy (and us) then we continued playing.

At the break the scores were fairly even. I overheard their team captain saying that the Boards were a bit flat, meaning they hadn't been able to overcome their 1500 point deficit. They needn't have worried, in the second half there were plenty of big swings.

Here's one where me and Anna got a good result, defending against the Polish Club.

E deal, Love all
♠ A 9 x
♥ K x x
♦ J x x x
♣ x x x
♠ T x x
♥ x x x x
♦ x x x
♣ J x x
♠ K Q J x
♥ A
♦ A K Q
♣ A Q x x x
♠ 8 x x
♥ Q J T x x
♦ x x x
♣ K T

East opened the ubiquitous 1♣, showing either a weak hand, medium hand with Clubs, or a strong hand. The defence I'd hurriedly suggested to Anna was that overcalls of 1♣ were natural, but that we would have special meanings for double and 1NT. Double shows Majors, 1NT shows Minors. Here I just made a simple overcall of 1♥. I'm pretty weak but I like to get in quickly if the opponents have a potentially strong hand.

Me and Anna support each other without much, and Anna can always be relied on to give a courtesy raise. Here she found a fine 2♥ bid, also with a rubbish hand. East then came in with 2♠ showing that this time his 1♣ opener was the strong hand. He's got a full 25 points. I'm not sure why he bid 2♠ rather than doubling (or even bidding 3♣). Anyway, his bid is forcing, as it shows 18+, without any upper limit. So West shouldn't pass, but he did. If you're ever going to pass partner's forcing bid, West has the right hand to do it, a very flat one count. Also he might have thought me and Anna were a bit stronger for our bids, leaving less points for his partner.

2♠ was passed out, and East wasn't happy. I lead the ♥Q and he took the ♥A and started on Clubs. Me and Anna kept forcing him in Hearts, and he kept ruffing in hand. Eventually, he lead the last Spade from dummy. Anna won it with the ♠9. Declarer was lucky, as our Spades split 3-3, and even luckier that it was Anna who won the last one and not me, as by that point Anna had no more Hearts to cash. So declarer lost just one Club and two trumps for 2♠+2. This might have looked like they had missed a game, but really 4♠ is a very bad contract, and 3NT fails on a Heart lead. I suppose you can make 5♣, but it's hard to get there. If they choose to defend 2♥x it probably goes two off. So I'm not sure what happened at the other tables, but actually 2♠+2 might have been quite a good result for East-West.

Later I was feeling quite bold and took the unprecedented step of raising Anna's 1♠ response with only three Spades. She didn't mind as she had six of them, and made 4♠ exactly. On the penultimate Board Anna opened 1♠ and again I was bold, this time raising here with just an Ace and no other points. Again we ended up in 4♠, this time doubled. It had a chance to make, all depending on playing this trump suit for no losers:

♠ A Q T x x x
♠ 9 x x x

Since West had doubled Anna went for a Spade to the ten, which ruefully lost to East's singleton Jack. 4♠x-1.

On the very last Board it was my turn to get doubled.

E deal, Game all
♠ J T x x x x
♥ K x
♦ Q T x
♣ J x
♠ Q
♥ J x x x x x
♦ J x x x
♣ K x
♠ x
♥ Q x x
♦ A K x
♣ A x x x x x
♠ A K x x x
♥ A x
♦ x x x
♣ Q T x

East opened 2♣, which showed 11-14 and six Clubs, or five Clubs and four of a Major. Basically it's the sort of hand we'd open1♣, but they have to open 2♣ as they use 1♣ already for something else. We'd not got round to discussing a defence to this, and previously when they bid it we had a mix up and missed game. This time I overcalled 2♠ and Anna showed no hesitation in boosting me up to 4♠. East doubled this, and Anna apologised when she put dummy down. But I think she's got her bid, I'm maybe at fault for stretching a bit with the 2♠ overcall.

West lead the ♣K, and I had a look at dummy. There was no way I could make this contract, as I had at least four losers in the minors. The best I could hope for was one off. East continued with another Club to East's Ace. East cashed two Diamonds and I was already one off. The came the defensive coup d'etat. East lead a third Club, and West was able to ruff with her singleton ♠Q, higher than all the trumps in dummy. So we finished with 4♠x-2, for 500 points out. Looking at all four hands it looks like West can probably make Four Hearts, but with an eleven card fit North-South are always playing 4♠, though probably not always doubled. "Dobre kontra" I said to East.

After we had finished there was still one table playing, so we all had to wait and see what happened there. Could we hang on? After all the scores were added we had lost the match by a few hundred points, but with our 1500 point bonus we scraped through to the next round.

A famous victory!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Too cool for just one school

Last Friday afternoon was dedicated to bridge.

First at lunch time bridge TB and AP won a very topsy-turvy week. The Deal of the Week was undoubtedly a very improbable auction to 4♥, doubled and off five.

After lunch I had my weekly Bridge Club with about ten 2nd and 3rd year boys. It's an informal club, with the focus on having fun. I hope if any of them really like it they can come back and learn properly. I've got them on to full bidding pretty quickly, and a sort of simplified scoring. The scoring is important to them, as they were always keen to know who was winning. This week I introduced the double and the redouble, and things quickly got out of hand.

After school I went across town to Hutchesons Grammar School, where John DiMambro runs a proper bridge club. There's even an associated mini-bridge club at the primary school. What a great setup. There's folders of notes he's prepared for his pupils, all with associated wallets of deals and print outs. It was very impressive.

It took me an hour to get there, so I didn't have much time in the club. I saw the seniors were being coached by Ronald Gaffin, then headed down the room to the juniors. I joined a table of three, and me and a 1st year pupil had a really horrible auction to 4♠, based on a 4-3 fit, 21 points and several misunderstandings. Shockingly, we made the game, which I think made for a very poor teaching point, and might have set back that table several months of learning how to bid properly.

Then I joined the next table up, which was playing a series of hands on the theme of Opening 1NT and Stayman. Here's the full deal and auction.

S deal, Love all
♠ A 8
♥ K Q x x
♦ x x x x
♣ x x x
♠ K Q T 7 x
♥ T 9 x x
♦ K Q
♣ x x
♠ J 9
♥ x x x
♦ x x x
♣ K T x x
♠ x x x x
♥ A J x
♦ A J
♣ A Q J x

The pupils were sitting North and South. I sat West, opposite a teacher. The pupil sitting South opened a strong 1NT, and his partner replied with 2♣ Stayman. After the 2♠ response North bid an invitational 2NT, and South immediately accepted and bid a game. He bid it so quickly I'm not sure if he even checked if he was maximum, or if he just likes to bid games. Could he back up his confidence?

Even though South had shown four Spades with his 2♠ bid, I had to lead a Spade. Without much thought I lead the ♠K - we'll come back to that opening lead. The spotlight was now on South. He rapidly called for the Ace. Did declarer know what he was doing, or was he simply grabbing his Ace? John DiMambro came over and checked that declarer had counted his tricks (he had), and that he had a plan (he had). Declarer described exactly how many top tricks there were (seven), and what the best suit was to get two more (Clubs). I went off to talk to the next table, but when I came back declarer had indeed bagged nine tricks, taking the Club finesse twice. Well played!

Now let's come back to that opening lead. This is the Spade suit:

♠ A 8
♠ K Q T 7 x J 9
♠ x x x x

On this particular layout leading the ♠K would have been fine. If I get back in I can lead the ♠Q, and my ♠7 will be a fourth round winner. But, what about on other layouts? Remember, from the auction I know that South has got four Spades. If my partner has the ♠J then of course leading a low Spade would be much better. For example:

♠ A 8
♠ K Q T 7 x J x
♠ 9 x x x

Here I have to start with a low Spade. If I begin with the ♠K then declarer ends up with a second stopper. But what about when declarer has the Jack? I'd hate to give away a trick by leading low. You can just about come up with a situation where it's best to start with the King:

♠ x
♠ K Q T 7 x 9 8 x
♠ A J x x

But even then it's not looking good for the defence. I think then, on balance, I'm convinced that a low lead is best. So I've learnt something at Hutchie today as well.

Thanks to Hutchesons school for a very warm welcome at their Bridge Club. I look forward to meeting their future stars across the table!

Monday, 25 November 2013

East Swiss Pairs

On Sunday me and John Faben got the train from Glasgow through to Edinburgh to play in the East Swiss Pairs. We got a bit lost walking there and arrived about a minute after the official start. My partner for the day, Krzystof Nguyen, was already there. I was hoping to eat lunch first, but there was no time, and Kris was bombarding me with a series of questions about 4-4-4-1 openings. To be honest I've never really thought about it, and deflected him by going to the toilet. Kris had kindly agreed to play all of me and Anna's system, which meant he would be in unfamiliar Acol territory.

The format was seven rounds of six boards each. You start at a random table, and if you win you move up the room towards the top table. Lose, and you move down the room further into oblivion. Right at the start on Board One we let the opponents make 3NT+4. They thought they'd missed a slam, but actually 3NT+4 was a very good score for them. Me and Kris were both defending to try and beat the contract, which could never be beaten, so we let through an extra overtrick. Then on Board 3 Kris had

♠ ♥ Q432 ♦ KJ53 ♣ KQJT3.

He had an Acol meltdown and opened 1♦, which lead to playing 2♦ on a 4-2 fit, which he played nicely for only one down. Then on Board 4 he opened a bold 4♥ and made it doubled, and on Board 6 made an excellent overtrick in 4♠. Things were going quite well, with me being dummy.

We won the first round 12-8, and moved up the room a bit. In the second round Kris kept playing and I kept being dummy, and we won 14-6 to move up to Table 6. This turned out to be a high watermark. In round three against a very good pair they stuffed us full of overtricks. Then on Board 18 I was sitting South, and had a tricky matchpoints decision. Sadly, I bottled it.

Board 18
E deal, NS vul
♠ A 7 5
♥ J 9
♦ A Q 9 3
♣ K J 3 2
♠ Q J 9 4
♥ A K T 4
♦ K J T 8
♣ 9
♠ T 6
♥ 8 6 3 2
♦ 6 5 2
♣ A 8 6 4
♠ K 8 3 2
♥ Q 7 5
♦ 7 4
♣ Q T 7 5

West opened 1♥ and Kris sitting North doubled. East bid 2♥, which is a great bid. I wasn't sure what to bid as South. I didn't really like my hand, and thought it was too flat, and lots of other excuses, so I just passed. We beat 2♥ by one trick for +50, but actually that was a bad score as we could make 2♠ (on a 4-3 fit) or even 2NT.

Next up was Board 13. This was undoubtedly the Board of the day. I promise you this isn't a misprint:

Board 13
N deal, Game all
♠ A 7 5
♥ J 9
♦ A Q 9 3
♣ K J 3 2
♠ T 4
♥ A K
♦ Q J 7 6
♣ A K T 9 6
♠ J 9 8 3
♥ Q 6 4
♦ K
♣ Q 8 7 4 3
♠ A 7 5 2
♥ J T 9 5 3
♦ A 9 5
♣ 5

Kris sitting North opened 1♣, and I replied 1♥. West overcalled 1NT and Kris doubled. This was passed out. I was sitting South, feeling good that we were going to beat this contract. Then, Kris lead the ♥J. I also had the ♥J in my hand. I stared at his lead for at least a minute, in disbelief. I was checking they were both Jacks, and checking they were both Hearts, again and again. Finally I called over the Tournament Director, who realised what had happened straight away, and assumed the cards had been wrongly placed in the wallet from the previous deal. Then we figured out that actually Kris had just kept all his cards from the last deal! Compare the North hand in this diagram with the one above.

Here's what must have happened - he finished the previous Board, shuffled his cards and put them down. Then, a few seconds later, picked them up, sorted them, and started bidding again! To be fair, he was sitting North and dealing with the Bridgemate, which no one enjoys doing. West said that when he saw dummy he was looking forward to it too as he thought he could make it easily - what he didn't know of course it that we were playing with a deck with nearly 50 points in it.

The Director ruled that we couldn't play the Board, and automatically awarded us an average minus (40%) and the opponents an average plus (60%). This 40% was actually one of our better deals, and we lost the round heavily. We lost the next round too, as by now we were both very hungry.

I had some coconut soup and a delicious coconut cake for lunch. The cake was so good I bought two to take away to give to Anna. I was feeling pretty relaxed - I think I'd only played about three hands so far. In fact, in the whole day, of 42 boards, I played only 5, and was dummy 19 times. I think this might have been because of my conservative bidding, and Kris's bold bidding. I'm pretty sure we were the only ones playing 6♣x-2 on Board 11.

After the break we emerged refreshed and had a fun match against Jun and Yvonne. I thought we were doing well, but we somehow lost this one too. There was a lowpoint on Board 27. I opened 1♦, Yvonne showed both majors with 2♦, and Kris ended up having a punt at 3NT with no Spade stop. The hand quickly unravelled for 3NT-5. Then Jun and Yvonne avoided 3NT and bid an excellent 4♥ on Board 30, so maybe on balance we did deserve to lose the match.

We were now firmly in the bottom half of the field. In the penultimate round we played Frances and Ronnie from Glasgow. Like I do in every round, I decided that now was the time to make our move. This time I meant it though. I decided to stop being shy, and on Board 34 powered to 6♥ based on a 5-2 Heart fit. When this made I knew it was a good round, and we moved back up the room a bit.

On the final round I kept up the momentum, and bid up to the maximum on the final board. I've starred the conventional bids in the auction below:

Board 42
E deal, Game all
♠ A J 9 8 6 5
♥ A J 2
♦ 3
♣ A K Q
♠ T 4
♥ Q 9 7 5
♦ 8 6 5
♣ 7 5 4 2
♠ Q 3 2
♥ K 8 6 4 3
♦ T 9 7 4
♣ J
♠ K 7
♥ T
♦ A K Q J 2
♣ T 9 8 6 3

Kris sitting South opened 1♦, I replied 1♠, and he bid 2♣. All normal so far. Then I bid the fourth suit, 2♥, which we play as fourth suit forcing to game. Now that we are forced to game we can both relax and show the shape of our hands. Kris showed his 5-5 shape with 3♣, and I showed a sixth spade with 3♠ (If Kris had three Spades he'd have bid them last round, so for me to still have interest in Spades I must have six of them). Kris raised me to 3♠, and now we've now found the eight card Spade fit. I can now figure out that his shape must be 2-1-5-5 or maybe 2-0-6-5. The important this is that he can only have at most one Hearts, so looking at my hand we've no Hearts losers - and if Spades are good no losers in any other suit either.

I bid 4NT Blackwood, and Kris's 5♥ reply showed 2 keycards (the ♣A and ♦A) and no queen of trumps - i.e. no Queen of Spades. Since I know he doesn't have the Queen of Spades I know that 7♠ is going to be a dodgy contract, depending on the Spade finesse at best. But, I slowly thought to myself, if we have another trump suit, we'll be able to set up the Spades by playing off the Ace and King and ruffing one in his hand. There's still a chance of a grand slam, just not in Spades. I bid 5NT to ask for Kings. He bid 5♦, which could show one King or the King of Diamonds depending what system you play. I didn't care, which he had, and went ahead and bid a massive 7♣.

Kris did remarkably well to pass this, given that he only had five Clubs to the Ten and I'd shown no Club support before. West lead a Club, and when the ♣J dropped from East it was nearly home. He drew a second round of trumps, then crossed to the South hand via ruffing a Heart. He ruffed his ♦2, the only possible loser in the South hand. He could now draw trumps and claim. So, in fact his Diamonds were so strong he never needed my Spades. And in fact you can make 7NT just by cashing top tricks as well. But I prefer being in 7♣, and I think this beat most of the field who were in 6♠. Fools.

With this strong finish we came 11th overall, good enough for the 2nd Bronze prize. Full rankings are here, congratulations to the overall winners Catriona Gardiner & Malcolm Mccardle.

Afterwards we went to Bennetts Bar with the other juniors (in bridge terms I'm still a junior) for a drink. We also met up with some of the bridge players from the Scottish Pairs Trials. But make no mistake, the big event of the day was taking place at the Carlton Club. If you are interested, the results of the Scottish trials can be found on the SBU site here with a brief report on Paul Gipson's blog here.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Killer Lead #1

This will be the first in what will undoubtedly be a long series of killer leads I've found.

Here's the auction, and your hand. You are South. It's from a Bridge Base Matchpoints tournament.

After the opponents have opened and replied, you've come in with 2♣. Partner has supported with 3♣, and you've pushed it to 4♣. With a double fit, they've finished in 4♥.

What do you lead?

Of course it's tempting to lead out the top Clubs. But that's not the killer lead. Here's the full deal.

Of course I found the killer lead - the ♠K!. Declarer won this and tried two round of trumps with the ♥A and ♥K, then started on Diamonds. But Anna ruffed in with the ♥Q. We then took our two Spades and a Club for 4♥-1 and 88% on the deal.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Criminal - Deal of the Week #10

This week TB and AP crushed the opposition to win the week and recover the lead in the series. But there were some missed opportunities - criminal misses.

Here's one where a mix up caused a missed game:

♠ K J x x x
♥ A 9 x
♦ A x
♣ x x x
♠ A Q x x
♥ J T 8 x x
♦ x x
♣ K x

I had the North hand. After three passes, the bidding came round to me. With most partners I'd open that hand 1♠ in an instant, but in lunch time bridge you normally need thirteen points to open, so it's a borderline opener. After three passes you should open borderline hands only when you have good Spades, as the side with Spades can win the auction cheaply. So I opened 1♠. South, who originally passed, now has a much better hand, and is thinking straight away of playing 4♠.

But instead South bid 2♥, confident that his partner, who opened the bidding, would bid again. But his partner (me), didn't bid again. I didn't realise partner could have Spade support, and passed, thinking that was a cheap way to leave us in a low level making contract. With the ♣A and ♥KQ onside the result was an embarrassing 2♥+3. I now know that the house rules are that after you open you promise another bid - even if partner is a passed hand. This isn't a great agreement, but it's worth sacrificing a bit of bidding accuracy for simplicity so I'm happy to follow this from now on.

In the second hand below it's pretty clear what went wrong, we were in the wrong game. But I'm still not quite sure how to stop it:

♠ Q x
♥ -
♦ A K J x
♣ A K J 9 x x x
♠ K x x
♥ A Q 9 8 x x
♦ Q x x
♣ Q

South opened 1♥ and North replied 2♣. South rebid 2♥, which almost always shows a six card suit. North then showed his good Clubs, and slam ambition, with 4♣. The only bid available for South now is 4♥, which he bid. North then passed this, following the principle of keeping the bidding low in a misfit. But there's a saying "What do you call an eight card suit? Trumps!". North only has seven Clubs but looking at it now they're so good you know you're unlikely to ever lose more than one Club, but you can imagine several losers with Hearts as trumps.

South was stuck as declarer in 4♥. It looks pretty bad. You've got the ♠A to lose, along with probably three trumps (the ♥K, ♥J and ♥T). Even if you somehow get lucky and an opponent is forced to drop the ♥K for example, it's not really lucky as it just means the Hearts have split badly. After a Diamond lead the only shot is to try and discard your losing Spades on the winning Clubs and Diamonds. By the time you are discarding the last Spade an opponent will be out of Clubs and ruffing you, but if you are lucky trumps will split 4-3 and it will be the hand with four trumps that ruffs. Then you can draw trumps only losing that one ruff and two more.

South played this way, and briefly it looked like it might work, until the defence engineered a Diamond ruff, so the result was 4♥-1. This is bad news, as there's no beating 6♣ - you just lose one Spade. Another criminal missed opportunity.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Glasgow Division Two: Team Rowan vs Maccabi

After work on Tuesday me and Anna went straight to the Buchanan Club for a league match. I was starving. As we waited for our opponents to arrive some stories went round about how good they were going to be. Sure enough, in came a couple of Scotland Internationals. On our table we were up against Peter Cohen, the SBU Convenor [Edited as I got this wrong before], and his wife Helena.

Early on me and Anna bid to a rather wild 6♠. Helena cashed the ♥A in defence, so I needed to win the rest. This was the position in trumps:

♠ J 9 8 7
♠ Q T 6 4
♠ A K 5 3 2

I didn't fancy it much, but decided to try cashing the ♠AK. On the ♠A, West showed out, and I knew I had to go down. In the end, I actually used one of dummy's trumps to ruff something, making my trumps even more vulnerable. East was now able to make two trump tricks, so the result was 6♠-2.

The hand's worth mentioning because of Peter's decision as East not to double me, despite his excellent trumps. In 6♠x I can actually make it, if I am bold enough to run the ♠9 on the first round. I'm not sure if I would have taken that line or not, it depends if I think he's doubling because of his trumps or because we've had such a poor auction.

It was chilly in the room, but I was warm. This is the natural progression of things in a league match: first, I feel warm and take my jumper off; next, Anna feels cold and borrows my jumper and puts it on her knees; finally Anna puts my jumper on.

Me and Anna had a mixed first half. On the downside we had missed a couple of games (including bidding that bad slam). On the upside we defended well. The highlight was a good 500 penalty when I had a Spade void and kept doubling the opponents for takeout and Anna kept passing, right up until she finally passed 4♠x and we beat it by three. At the break the team was surprisingly about 1000 points up. I had part of a sandwich I'd bought from Subway earlier, and we emerged rejuvenated.

In the second half me and Anna took down a series of part scores, which I think probably added up to one game altogether. There was a lot more bidding, including in my featured hand. I'm not sure if we got a good result here or not.

N deal, Love all
♠ A J 9 7
♥ A J T x
♦ x
♣ K J T 9
♠ x x
♥ Q x x
♦ A K Q x x x
♣ x x
♠ K x x
♥ K x x
♦ x x x
♣ Q x x x
♠ Q T x x
♥ x x x
♦ J x x
♣ A x x

I've got the decent North hand. Me and Anna have never really discussed how to open 4-4-4-1 hands, but I think when the singleton is a Diamond like this we're both agreed in opening 1♣. Anna replied 1♠, and West came in with a very solid 2♦ overcall (with partner having already passed 3♦ is a possibility also). Now I know we've got a Spade fit I've got a decision as North. I've only got 14 points, but it's only five losers and all the suits are very chunky. I thought about bidding an immediate game, but wound my neck in and only bid 3♦, which showed an invitational raise in Spades. I should probably have just bid 3♠ as an invite in Spades, but I bid 3♦ and Anna knew what I meant. With a minimum hand, she corrected to 3♠ and I passed.

3♠ is a tough contract, as you want to draw trumps so you can set up Clubs and Hearts, but you also want to ruff some Diamonds.

Anna got the ♦A lead, then another top Diamond, which she ruffed. With few entries to hand Anna immediately finessed Clubs, leading the ♣J, then the ♣T, then a third round of Clubs to her ♣A which West ruffed. The defence kept playing Diamonds and Anna kept ruffing them, and in the end the defence came to one trick in each suit, for 3♠=. Afterwards, I asked Anna why she didn't draw trumps once she'd guessed the Club finesse correctly. Her reply was "Don't confuse me, let's play the next Board", which we did. Maybe if you draw trumps you then lose the ability to ruff the last Diamond, so get nine tricks anyway.

What do you think of me inviting game in Spades? After I invited game I wished I has just bid 4♠ instead, and when Anna refused the invite by only bidding 3♠ I thought about topping it up myself, though this would have been a bit ridiculous.

My North hand, 14 points 4-4-4-1 shape and only five losers is almost exactly the same hand that John Faben features in his blog about the Buchanan Winter Pairs here.

♠ KQT4 ♥ QJ52 ♦ KQJT ♣ 4

With this hand John decided to only raise his partner's 1♠ bid to 2♠. I actually had the same cards as John in that event, and when I got the hand I also bid 3♠. So at least I'm consistent.

For the rest of our league match me and Anna played fairly well, finishing with a flourish with 6♠ on the last hand. There was a lot of high level interference during that auction from Peter, so after I decided to bid 6♠ I was pretty anxious putting my dummy down. But to my relief, Anna claimed twelve tricks almost immediately. On our table we won the second half by about 700 points.

Overall, Team Rowan won the match by 480 points, a tiny margin over a total of 96 hands of bridge. In fact, it's exactly 5 points per board. The narrow points victory translated into winning the match 9-7.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Playing the Long Game - Deal of the Week #9

It was a big week of Lunch Time Bridge. On Wednesday I took over one hand from AP, and me and TB quickly bid up to 4♥. Then I saw JW putting away his cards before the end of the auction, and decided to try and punish his impudence with an immediate 6♥ bid. Me and dummy only had 22 points between us, but with a big trump fit and lots of distribution it finished 6♥+1.

But that's not the Deal of The Week. This comes from Friday, and features NC stealing a game. Here's the full deal:

S deal, Love all
♠ A J T x x
♥ T x
♦ J 9 8 x
♣ A x
♠ x x
♥ K Q x
♦ x x x
♣ K Q x x x
♠ x x x
♥ x x x x
♦ A Q T
♣ J T x
♠ K Q x
♥ A J x x
♦ K x x
♣ x x x

South has a balanced 13 count. Playing a strong NT he opens one of a suit (here Hearts), then rebids 1NT over his partner's 1♠ bid. North has a 10 count, and made an invitational raise of 2NT. Should South accept the invitation? He's shown 12-14, and since he has a very flat 13 count, I'd say he's at the bottom of his range, and should pass. But he wanted to bid on, and so I advised him that better than just bidding 3NT is bidding 3♠, to show 3 card support, then North can bid 4♠ if he has five of them. North did have five, but preferred the nine trick 3NT game.

Looking at the North and South hands 3NT is pretty hopeless. In immediate tricks you've got 5 Spades, and two Aces, which only makes seven. You need two extra tricks. These could in theory come from Hearts, though Diamonds are a better shot. But surely the defence will take five tricks by then, if they get into the Clubs?

West lead a Club, which declarer ducked and East won with the Jack. East was then too eager to cash his winners, and took the ♦A then continued with the ♦Q, hoping his partner had the ♦K. Declarer was thus able to get three Diamond tricks, which along with his other seven winners was 3NT+1.

There's no rush for East to take his ♦A, and he does best to continue Clubs. Of course declarer will win this in dummy, but then East-West will get three more Club tricks. You've got to think long term in a No Trump contract.

Finally, how would North-South have done in 4♠? Even with the favourable Diamond position, you've still got to lose 2 Diamonds, along with 1 Club and 1 Heart, for 4♠-1. This is slightly better than 3NT though, which will either go one or two down.

Flustered at the Winter Pairs

The first Wednesday of each month at the Buchanan is the Winter Pairs. The winning pair is the one with the four best scores from all the months. Me and Anna had a good September (see here), but missed October. So it was important we came roaring back in November.

I was sitting North, and had a very busy evening. I bothered the Director several times, from mis-scoring boards. Then one Board came over from the other room, and when I looked at the wallet straight away something didn't look right with the North cards. They were absolutely stuffed in there. I had nineteen cards! My partner had seven. How on earth did that happen? The Director was called again to sort it out, but was half way through a hand himself. Later in the night we had only one opponent for ten minutes, as it turned out her partner thought it was the break. I was getting quite warm, though everyone else was cold, and at one point Anna started wearing my jumper on top of hers.

Here's a good one for us. Both sides are vulnerable.

♠ Q
♥ K 9 7 4
♦ J 8 6 4
♣ 8 6 5 3
♠ J 6 4 2
♥ -
♦ K Q T 3
♣ A K T 9 2

East opened 1♠, and I've got the nice South hand. I overcalled 2♣, and West bid 2♠. This was Matchpoint scoring, and often 2♠ finishes the auction. But not today. Anna found a 3♣ raise with her North hand, which is an excellent bid with four trumps and a singleton Spade. From her perspective, 3♣ is probably going one off but 2♠ is making. But it didn't end there - East bid again with 3♠, and, now I realised that my partner must have a singleton or void Spade, I came back in with 4♣. East doubled this and that ended the auction.

I did think about redoubling, because I've got a great hand, with some surprises the defence won't expect - excellent trumps sitting over the doubler, and a Heart void.

I got a Spade lead and made 10 tricks, just losing one Spade, one Diamond and one Club, surprisingly to West who had ♣QJx. East had made what he described as a Match Point Double, which I think was actually a very good bid. I was most impressed that after the doubled contract made, he shrugged his shoulders and that was it. West suggested maybe she should have bid 4♠, but East just said it was just one of those things, if you always double when you should occasionally you'll double a making contract.

I entered the contract into the Bridgemate as 4♣=, then we called the Director again and fixed it to 4♣x=.

With a bit more luck like that we finished the night on 55%.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Glasgow Division Two: Team Rowan vs Strathclyde

Me and Anna missed the last match for Team Rowan, a 9-7 win against Lyndoch. We were back in the team last night for another trip to Hamilton, this time against Strathclyde.

On our table we had a storming first half, gaining nearly 4000 points over the 12 hands. This was thanks in large part to two big slams. On one of them Anna opened a Weak NT (12-14), and I had this hand:

♠Ax ♥QJx ♦AQJ9xxx ♣x

It's only 14 points, but there's seven Diamonds and I liked what I saw. I investigated a slam, and when Anna showed ♦Kx in Diamonds we ended up in 6♦. We were lucky, and it made on a finesse.

On the other big one I sorted my cards and found I had a void in Hearts. Then I saw Anna reaching for the bidding box. I was almost certain she was going to bid 1♥, or worse 2♥, but to my surprise she pulled out a 1♠ bid. This hit the jackpot - I had five Spades myself. You've got to make the most of it when that happens.

♠ K x x x x
♥ -
♦ x x
♣ K Q T x x x
♠ A Q x x x
♥ Q T x
♦ A x x
♣ A x

I'm sitting North. Once Anna's opened 1♠ I have a few possible ways of showing support. I could bid a natural 4♠, but my hand is too good for that. It's only 8 points, but also it's only 5 losers. I could bid Jacoby 2NT, but we save that for hands with support and some points. So instead I bid 4♥ as a splinter, a double jump showing a good raise in partner's suit, and a void or singleton Heart. We've not discussed how strong you need to be to do this, apart from of course you need to be good enough to play 4♠. The splinter could help Anna evaluate her hand, which is especially useful if the bidding gets competitive. I thought this was quite likely as I know the opponents have lots of Hearts and a few points too.

Over my 4♥ there's not much room for Anna. She can either bid 4♠ with a minimum hand, 4NT Blackwood, or make a cuebid in Clubs or Diamonds. She wisely went for 4NT. Our normal responses are 0314, so with 1 Keycard I would bid 5♦. But of course I've also got a void in Hearts, which could be as good as another Ace. I decided that I had such a freak hand the best things was just to punt for 6♠. Anna was surprised, but passed then raked in all the tricks for 6♠+1.

Me and Anna have since agreed these Blackwood responses with a void:

5NT Even number of keycards, and a void
6 of the void suit
(or six trumps if void suit is higher than trumps)
Odd number of keycards, and a void

Some people play it the other way round, but Anna says the table above is the more memorable way, as "No Trumps feels even.". If we had have agreed this I'd have bid 6♥ on the hand above, showing one keycard and a void in Hearts.

Note that despite only having 24 points 7♠ is a fine contract. We still gained for 6♠+1, as on the other table the auction just went 1♠-4♠.

Here's the half time biscuits (pictured at the end of the interval), another excellent selection from Hamilton Bridge Club.

In the second half of the match our opponents played well to claw back lots of points, but in the end we finished with a positive score on all four tables, and won the match 15-1, and celebrated with some tablet on the drive back.


A week later, on Bridge Base, me and Anna were faced with a similar Blackwood-with-a-void situation.

Anna sitting North opened 1♥, East overcalled 1♠ and I splintered with 4♣. Anna made a cuebid in Spades and I bid 4NT. This was crunch time for Anna. She has two keycards, and a void in Spades. Would she simply bid 5♥ to show two keycards, or would she attempt to show the void?

Although she was worried it would take us too high, Anna bid 5NT, showing an even number of keycards and a void (presumably in Spades). I now bid 6♥. I didn't have any choice, as we were already at 5NT, but of course with my one keycard our only loser was the ♦A, so it made exactly. Even better, East doubled it.